I’ve written elsewhere about how one of the great perks of being a published author is access to free books, and being on a panel at a writers’ festival generally triggers an influx. In preparation for the Writers at the Convent festival this weekend, I’ve been reading novels by my co-panelists Toni Jordan and Meg Mundell, starting with Toni’s second novel Fall Girl.
Fall Girl centres on Della Gilmore, who lives with her extended family in a kind of con artists’ collective. She comes up with a plan for an ambitious sting, her mark a handsome, ‘expensively dishevelled’ millionaire Daniel Metcalf, head of the Metcalf Trust. Posing as Dr Ella Canfield, she applies to Metcalf for a grant to fund a non-existent research project to prove the Tasmania Tiger still lives in the Wilson’s Promontory National Park. What transpires is a great romp of a story, peopled with engaging characters who may or may not be on the level.
Toni has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Queensland and has worked as a molecular biologist. As a girlie swot myself, I loved all the scientific references. There’s a scene where ‘Ella’ tells Daniel about the discovery in 1992 of the vu quang ox in area on the Laos-Vietnam border. I was actually living in Laos at the time what the locals call the saola was discovered. I remember having a similar reaction to Ella/Della, marvelling that there was a part of the planet so unexplored that an animal of this size could stay hidden all these years from western scientists. And you’ve got to admire a writer who can slip the theory that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny into a hot seduction scene.
Fall Girl provides anthropological insight into the world of people who make a career out of parting fools and their money. There is glamour and adventure in the con artist’s life, but also loneliness and deprivation.
That said, Fall Girl is laugh out loud funny. I particularly enjoyed the character of Julius, adopted as a baby from Nigeria by Della’s aunt and uncle, and last seen ‘building his fortune…as a Russian online bride who only needs a few thousand to bribe an official for a visa and then a few thousand more for an air ticket to come here to Australia to be with her new beloved.’ Also hilarious is the camping trip to Wilson’s Prom for Daniel to see Dr Canfield and her students researchers in action, complete with German backpackers on the beach.
Fall Girl is a highly entertaining and engaging read and I look forward to talking more about it with Toni Jordan about it this Saturday 12 February 2011 at 12pm in the Community Room at the Abbotsford Convent. Book here or drop by on the day.
This review has been submitted as part of the Aussie Author Challenge.